Cabot removes property damage lawsuit to federal court

By Kyla Asbury | Oct 30, 2015

HUNTINGTON – A lawsuit alleging property damage against Cabot Oil & Gas has been removed to federal court.

The notice of removal was filed Oct. 19, claiming that the plaintiff and defendant are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.

While Chris Deweese is a citizen of West Virginia, Cabot Oil & Gas is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Houston, Texas, according to the notice of removal.

Deweese has invested more than $2.5 million to convert his property to an operating cattle farm and more than $125,000 was spent improving the road and the adjoining fields.

To compensate Deweese for the property damage, the amount of recovery, should he prevail, would likely exceed $75,000, the notice states.

Deweese purchased a Putnam County property on June 30, 2011, for the purpose of engaging in a significant cattle and hunting operation, according to a complaint filed Sept. 18 in Putnam Circuit Court.

Deweese claims the property operates with approximately $300,000 in cattle inventory and also has other farming operations.

The cattle operation requires daily tending and farm activities, with significant extra time required during the winter months as cattle are on feed instead of grazing pastures and, at all relevant times, he maintained ownership and actual possession of the property and was entitled to reasonable, ordinary use of the real property as a private home and farm, according to the suit.

Deweese claims since his 2011 purchase of the property, he has invested over $2.5 million to convert the property to an operating cattle farm.

When Deweese purchased the property in 2011, the 1.75 mile road on his property was impassable by vehicles and he spent over $125,000 improving the road and the fields, according to the suit.

Deweese claims he spent a considerable amount of money in excavation work on the road, correcting drainage issues, culverts and grading the road for maximum accessibility.

On Aug. 26, Cabot sent Deweese a notice of application to plug and abandon a well and in the letter, Cabot instructed Deweese that if he had no objections to the well being plugged, he should sign and return the waiver attached to the letter, according to the suit.

Deweese claims he immediately had grave concerns that if the plugging project was to occur in the wet winter season, it could cause serious damage to his property and he contacted the defendant's regulatory supervisor, Kenneth Marcum, about his concerns.

After multiple unreturned voicemails, Deweese received a call indicating he could contact Whitney Johnson at Cabot's Glasgow office to express his concerns regarding the timing of the work to be performed, according to the suit.

Deweese claims he immediately contacted Johnson and expressed his concern about plugging the well with heavy equipment during the wet winter months and shared additional concerns with Johnson as well.

Johnson assured Deweese that Cabot would not begin the plugging process until the dry summer months, however, Cabot began working on Dec. 1, in breach of the agreement to delay work until the wet winter seasons had passed, according to the suit.

Deweese claims within 24 hours of work commencing, the road was completely impassable, dangerous and a significant concern regarding sediment control.

Hunters also were unable to gain access due to equipment and road damage caused by Cabot, according to the suit.

Deweese claims on Dec. 3, Cabot temporarily stopped work on the project because of how bad the road had become and it made no effort to fix the road in had destroyed.

On Jan. 26, Deweese asked Cabot to refer the matter to Cabot's inside counsel and on Jan. 29, he advised Cabot's counsel, Tim Mller, that he would be meeting that day with a contractor about the damage and work needing to be completed, according to the suit.

On Feb. 10, Miller advised Deweese that he had conducted preliminary inspections and proposed a reclamation plan for Deweese's consideration.

Deweese claims he expressed disappointment about the reclamation plan to Cabot and advised the company that it needed to repair the fate and that a steer and cow had died as a result of Cabot's operations.

The plaintiff suffered significant damages due to Cabot's activity and he was unable to deliver cattle to the normal delivery spot because of Cabot's damage to his road, according to the suit.

Deweese claims on July 2, he demanded a reasonable sum as compensation for damages incurred as a result of Cabot's actions, however, Cabot offered him far less than the actual damages incurred.

Deweese is seeking compensatory and punitive damages with pre- and post-judgment interest. He is being represented by Marc R. Weintraub and Patricia M. Kipnis of Bailey & Glasser LLP.

Cabot is represented by Timothy M. Miller and Callie Waers of Babst Calland Clements & Zomnir PC.

The case is assigned to District Judge Robert C. Chambers.

U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia case number 3:15-cv-14161

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